Why Poker Could Use a Bit More Slowrolling

MikeMatusowWinsWSOPBraceletNumber4If you’ve been paying attention to the poker forums recently you’ve undoubtedly come across the YouTube video clip of Shaun Deeb slowrolling Mike “the Mouth” Matusow that will appear on a potential episode of the yet-to-be-picked-up Poker Night in America.

While most of the Internet chatter on the “slowroll heard round the world” has centered around Deeb “disrespecting Matusow and poker” and Matusow’s supposedly warranted passive-aggressive reaction, I have a different take on it: I think it was perfectly fine for Deeb to slowroll Matusow in that situation, and I think Matusow’s response was totally uncalled for. I’m sure many people will disagree with this assessment, but in this situation, Deeb helped poker and Matusow hurt it.

Before I explain my reasoning let me begin by saying that I do not condone deliberate slowrolling as a general rule, especially from a player that knows better. But there are occasions where slowrolling your opponent is completely acceptable, and this happens to be one of them.

I’d also point out that I’m not a Shaun Deeb supporter, and chastised him for his 2010 WSOP shenanigans in the Ladies Championship. I’m not exactly on “Team Matusow” either, but I do root for him to succeed, so this opinion is about as unbiased as it gets, considering when it comes to personality and likability I’m taking Matusow over Deeb every day of the week.

Finally, I’ve seen Matusow up close and personal playing in cash games in the past and the needling he gives players who are losing is 10-times worse than any slowroll could ever be.

Making the case in favor of Shaun Deeb

This show was meant to be entertaining; that was made clear to the players who signed-on up-front [emphasis mine]:

“Today, we are looking for a few additional players — more characters — for our new show. If you’re interesting, outgoing, and like to have fun, then we’re interested in you. If you wear sunglasses and headphones, and sit in silence, then forget it. We don’t want you on our show. Poker has enough of that dullness already.”

These professional players were trying to make what amounted to a very small stakes game (compared to other made for TV cash games we’ve seen) entertaining, and if you can’t play big pots there are only so many things you can do to pull in viewers. With the small stakes almost all of these players were playing so far below their regular limits that the game was essentially reduced to a session of kitchen-table poker amongst friends; a game where you expect the play to be loose and light-hearted.

Also, let’s be honest here, Deeb’s slowroll was far from malicious, it was more along the lines of calling the front desk for a 5 AM wakeup call to your friend’s hotel room –something that is slightly irritating for the victim of the prank in the immediate aftermath, but nothing to go to the mattresses over, and over time it simply becomes a funny story: “Hey, remember that time…”

When you are promoting the game in a made for TV poker game it’s not a big deal to slowroll someone. Poker Night in America needs to have something about it that will make a network take a flyer on it, and that something is definitely not the same thing we’ve already seen over-and-over, and previously at much higher stakes to boot.

If this occurred in a regular tournament, or if Deeb slowrolled an unknown player, I would be the first to criticize him. But I’m sorry, slowrolling Mike Matusow in a $25/$50 game for a $10k pot on TV is amusing.

The proper reaction to being slowrolled

You could make the argument that pro players purposely slowrolling each other might encourage amateur players to slowroll – this is essentially the same argument against showing fans running on the field at sporting events; supposedly it encourages more people to hop the fence and spend the night in jail.

This may be true, but couldn’t the commentators clearly state what slowrolling is, and why it’s frowned upon in a regular game? I think most people would understand that how you are expected to conduct yourself amongst friends is far different than how you are expected to behave in general.

Matusow’s reaction –basically making the entire table talk shutdown and leaving the show with minutes of awkwardness—is actually what is bad for poker. The NFL has been labeled as the “No Fun League” in recent years, and if every slowroll ends with mutterings, oaths and threats of physical violence, isn’t this a complete turnoff for the casual player? Doesn’t the casual player want to have fun? Don’t we as poker players need to overlook some of their “missteps” and let them think they are getting one over on us?

I’ve been slowrolled (both intentionally and unintentionally) and never reacted with anything but a slight chuckle. Yes, the person is gloating, but so what? It’s no different than an excessive touchdown celebration or admiring your homerun. If a slowroll sends you on tilt or makes you want to punch the person in the face I’d argue that you’re not in a good state of mind to be gambling for money.


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